Cowering under small packs 300 vertical meters above the talus on a wall three times that size, Marcos Costa and I were in full twitch mode. This was my sixth attempt to scale the still unclimbed “great wall of China” —the 900 meter west face of Seerdengpu, a barbaric mountain of granite soaring to an elevation of 5592 meters in the Shuangqiao gou of China’s Sichuan Province. We took a beating that day; bruised shoulders, bloody shins, chopped ropes and aching stoke sent us packing, so anxious we were to leave we each carried loads for two from our quaint basecamp below the monolith.
|Humping a big load down from Seerdengpu attempt.|
After our defeat we regrouped down valley at a guesthouse called Five Colours Mountain Lodge. We had almost three weeks left in the alpine wonderland of Shuangqiao and our ubiquitous penchant for vertical adventure was rank. We poured over some maps, then quickly turned our attention to an unclimbed peak across the valley from Seerdengpu that held the skyline with a jaggedly ominous arrogance, the kind of which assured our desired vertical value.
|Prayer flags from a Buddhist Stupa as seen from the valley floor bellow Peak 5467.|
|Camp below Peak 5467. In the background, Oxheart 4942 (left), unclimbed Peak 5404 (center) and Seerdengpu 5592.|
|Somewhere on the 1,000 meter Moo Moo Ridge. The summit of Peak 5467 in the distance.|
After 10 hours of scrappy climbing up frosty, less than ideal rock, we completed the first ascent of the long and complex southeast ridge—Moo Moo Ridge (1,000m, 5.10+ R) —thus making the first ascent of Peak 5,467 (17,936') and momentarily satiated our appetite.
|From the summit of Peak 5467 we could see nearly every peak in Bi Peng Valley, Changping Valley and Shuangqiao Valley.|
No rest for the wicked—the next day we hiked up into a wonderful sub-valley called Dagou, home to an impressive collection of granite peaks. We were interested in the unclimbed stuff, and two substantial features stood out: Peak 5,100 and Peak 5,184.
Once in the valley we met four French climbers Elodie Lecomte, Aurelie Didillon, Simon Duverney and Sebastian Ratel. They were heading up to climb the impressive east wall on 5100 – they succeeded and established Les Rescapes de la forget magique 600m 7b A.2, over the course of 3 or 4 days (they dubbed the peak, Four Pigs Peak 5100).
|Dagou Valley. Four Pigs Peak (left), Dayantianwo 5240m (center), Peak 5180m (right of center), the mighty south face of Seerdengpu (back right).|
|Marcos in his element during our first ascent of Peak 5184.|
Marcos and I set out for an attempt on the northwest face of Peak 5184. A recent snowstorm had deposited an uncomfortable amount of white on the rock, but we persevered through hours of screaming barfies and established a “fun” 1,000-foot 5.11 on the northwest face of Peak 5,184 (17,008'), bagging another new peak. From the summit, Daugou East and Daugou West overwhelmed the skyline, and we both knew where we were going next!
|Looking over at the north faces of Daugou East (left) and Daugou West, from the summit of Peak 5184.|
With just under a week left before my flight home, Marcos and I headed up into another sub-valley called Xiaogou to look at the other, sunnier side of the Daugous. We were immediately drawn to a brilliant granite pillar that dominated the south face of Daugou East (5,462m/17,920'). We climbed through squalls of snow and sleet, shivering our way up incredible cracks and good granite. The best pitch was perhaps the last: a 40-meter, 5.11 thin-hands splitter.
|Marcos Costa pointing towards the south face of Daugou East. South Pillar climbs the obvious rib up the center of the peak.|
During our descent that took us deep into the night, we were what appeared to be 60 meters from the security of the talus below. However, a relentless fog swirled around us, at times restricting sight to just a few meters. I was aiming for what looked like a ledge, or the ground. With the ends of the rope at the brim of my rappel device, I barely reached the discouraging feature and set a small piece of protection at its crumbling edge. With the tiny nut set, but unweighted, I balanced on the small ledge and released the rope, wincing as it ripped through my device and up into the dark. Upon closer inspection my ledge was in fact a “scab” of rock pasted to the wall with little more than friction keeping it secured. With a firm tug the nut pulled, I held on in silence until I could see the light of Marcos’s head lamp coming down. I calmly asked him to find another anchor, after a few tense minutes he replied “There is nothing. What are you hanging on?” “My fingers” I replied. He rapped down to me and we managed to get a sling around the top of the flake that by the grace of good fortune managed to hold for our final rappel.
We dubbed our route the South Pillar, 700m 5.11+, our ascent was the second recorded ascent of Daugou East and the first to climb to the current highpoint summit pillar.
|Summit of Daugou, Siguiniang in the far back. Celestial is the pyramid behind Chibu just above Marcos.|